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Utahns making millions on YouTube

Published: Wednesday, March 13 2013 4:55 p.m. MDT

Devin Graham was a student at BYU studying film. His dream was to work in Hollywood on feature films until he and roommate Jeff Harmon began to look at YouTube. Graham’s YouTube channel has 996,604 subscribers and 179,136,891 video views.

Courtesy of Devin Graham

YouTube, established in 2005, already has some unbelievable data to prove just how massive the social media site has become.

According to YouTube's statistics, there are more than 800 million unique users who visit YouTube each month with more than 4 billion hours of video watched. Seventy-two hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute.

When YouTube first began, videos like "Charlie bit my finger," "David at the dentist" and "Baby laughing" quickly became the ideal upload. But while funny home videos were a big hit at the beginning, kids are no longer the only ones finding viral fame.

In fact, since YouTube created its partner program in 2007, which allows Google ads to appear on videos, several artists and filmmakers have turned to YouTube as their sole income. That's right, several YouTube "celebrities" have quit their day job and are currently living off their online success.

And several YouTube celebrities are establishing themselves right here in Utah.

The list doesn't include just one or two of the well-known names, such as Lindsey Stirling or The Piano Guys. Several Utah YouTubers — or Utubers, as they call themselves — are pursuing their YouTube careers full time.

Utah is the No. 3 location in the world for YouTube celebrities, just behind Hollywood and London, according to Ricky Butler. Butler, who established his YouTube advertising company Plaid Social Labs in Utah, said the creativity found in the Beehive State is off the charts.

"Utah is seriously exploding with YouTube celebrities," Butler said. "I think what's happening, specifically with Utah, is that we're the first community that has decided to do quality production.

“I think being a YouTube celebrity is an awesome career,” Butler said. “Some of these celebrities are making millions of dollars.”

As the number of Utubers grows, a business community has formed to collaborate with other successful channels. Josh Gibson, who manages this tight-knit community via Facebook, extolled the benefits of joining together.

"It's a really awesome community — everyone is really nice and willing to help out," Gibson said. "We've found that through collaborating and helping each other out, we can each grow faster and also grow as a community here in Utah. I think that's the beauty of the YouTube scene. People who learn the ropes enjoy being able to come and help inspire others who are passionate."

Gibson recognizes how unique this type of community involvement is.

"I think there is an element to it that is especially present in Utah — that everybody is just very willing to help each other out for fairly non-selfish reasons," Gibson said. "I think that is a big reason why Utah YouTubers are so successful. They're not only willing, but love to help each other out."

But just how, exactly, can someone make a career out of uploading videos? Several Utubers shared their success stories.

Devinsupertramp: Devin Graham was a student at BYU studying film. His dream was to work in Hollywood on feature films until he and roommate Jeff Harmon began to look at YouTube during his senior year.

"He came to me and said, 'Hey, Devin, let's market this product' because he knew I was going into filmmaking and he was going into advertising and it seemed like an awesome fit," Graham said.

Graham and Harmon created some innovative videos, after which Graham left school and decided he wanted to see what kind of traffic he could produce for his own site.

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